Western Diplomats: Lebanon Sowing Seeds of Revived Opium Trade
Lebanon has once again become a center of opium trafficking, says a report by Middle East Newsline (MENL), citing Western diplomatic sources.
MENL said that opium had returned to the Bekaa Valley, adding that poppies there had been cultivated, harvested and processed into morphine and heroin.
The drugs are then smuggled to the West, according to the report.
The sources said that so far, opium production appears to be on a small scale. But they said the rate of production could continue to rise over the next year. Poppies are planted in October.
The major producers of opium in the region were until recently Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey, but a decision by the ruling Taliban movement in Afghanistan to ban the cultivation of poppies has given other producers the opportunity to meet the enormous demand.
In addition, Iran has been waging a war against traffickers who use its territories as a corridor to Europe and the Gulf states.
Lebanese sources have confirmed that opium production has been renewed in the country, claiming Lebanese authorities have ignored poppy cultivation, according to MENL.
At its height nearly a decade ago, Lebanon grew 16,000 hectares of popies in the area of Baalbek and the Bekaa Valley. The size of the poppy harvest now is said to be less than 1,000 hectares.
Every 1,000 square meters of poppies is said to yield up to three kilos of opium, the news service added.
Altough Lebanon’s Interior Minister Elias Murr expressed sympathy for farmers forced by economic necessity to plant drug-related crops, he nevertheless announced in early July a government crackdown on such crops in the Bekaa Valley, reported the Daily Star newspaper.
“What I want to stress is that although Lebanon will not permit planting [drug-related crops], the motives for such plantation must also be taken into consideration,” he said after meeting with Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.
According to the paper, Murr’s remark was quickly interpreted as an indication that the government planned to pay compensation to farmers growing marijuana.
But one source who attended the meeting told the paper that the government would enlist the help of international organizations in finding alternative crops for the farmers so they could make a living.
Farmers and Lebanese officials are quick to point out that such pledged aid as been in short supply – Albawaba.com